Adventure Builder Workshop: Rewards

by Wimwick (Neil Ellis) on September 27, 2010

Every player likes treasure. From gold, to gems, to shiny magic swords, we love our treasure. Our eyes glaze over as we dream about the perfect item for our character. Players have been known to lie, cheat and steal to keep a larger share of the treasure for themselves. We just can’t help it, it’s in our nature. As a DM it’s your job to dole out those tantalizing parcels of loot to your players.

This is the seventh instalment in an ongoing series about the Adventure Builder Workshop, based on the seminar hosted by Wizards of the Coast at GenCon this year. The previous entries in the series are:

At our home game we are moving to a rotating DM in the upcoming weeks. Each DM will run a session that lasts anywhere from 4 – 6 weeks depending on the length of the adventure and depth of the story they want to introduce. The campaign has a common theme and each DM will work within that context. With luck it will succeed, the trick each DM needs to deal with is assigning loot in a manner that is fair and consistent. Recently the individual who is on deck as DM asked what the Adventure Builder Workshop had to say about assigning rewards to players.

I’ll share with you what I said to him. Use the system in the Dungeon Masters Guide in terms of handing out treasure parcels. It’s a good system and it works. Take the rest of the advice from this post and work it into the treasure parcel system and you should have some content players. Bear in mind that as I write this the new system for magic items, which will categorize them into common, uncommon and rare has yet to be released. This change to the rules could change the items you provide, but it shouldn’t significantly alter the way you provide them.

When doling out treasure pick items that make your players feel important. One way to do this is pick items that might work well with their back story or that fit thematically with the way they have built their character. Another way is to ask players to create a wish list of items and ensure that you are going to that source when selecting items. With the absolute abundance of magic items available in 4e you want to get the mix right and you want to provide items the players actually want and will use.

Unique treasure that occurs in the campaign should be thematically appropriate. Don’t hand out a sword that does extra damage to elementals if you don’t ever plan on having the party encounter elementals. Ensure that the items you reward your players make sense with the adventure, everything is related and magic items are no exception to this rule.

One aspect of the game that I find DMs are a little stingy on are consumables. I don’t know if it’s because they get expensive fast as characters advance in level or not, but too few consumable items are rewarded in treasure (at least in games I’ve played). Be generous with consumables, they are consumable and aren’t likely to have a large impact on the overall outcome of the game, but they will increase player enjoyment. Similarly items that only work within the context of a particular encounter or session should be plentiful and free.

Don’t forget that there are rewards beyond items. Use these rewards to make players feel special and to provide special status to their characters. These kinds of rules should allow the player to break social rules and have access to people or places they might not normally have. Just be careful that you don’t provide a reward that will imbalance your campaign. Once rewards, magic or mundane, have been provided it is very difficult to take them back.

For more articles on treasure and rewards read the following:

What experience do you have in handing out treasure in your campaign? Do you have any guidelines that you follow? Do you prefer high or low magic campaigns?

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1 CaptainDM October 1, 2010 at 4:46 am

The game I’m running right now only has a Striker-focused Paladin as its leader. I definitely had to throw some healing potions at them in the lower levels. I did my best to make it fit with the motif wherever they were at: some small unbroken vials in an old laboratory, the leftovers of lesser fortunate victims of a kruthik attack, etc. My experience with video game RPGs has desensitized me to potions being everywhere, but I feel like if you want a more immersive experience you should try and be a little creative about it, right?

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